Being People of Virtue in a Culture of Vice

We as Christians can model a different, better way to engage in politics.

It is a good thing to feel passionate about political issues. Our government deals with a wide range of problems, and many of the decisions they make have life or death consequences. If you sense God urging you to get involved on an issue, I applaud that. Unfortunately, at times we can get so passionate about an issue or political concern that we lose sight of our calling as Christians.

In Galatians 5:19–23, Paul exhorts us to be people of the Spirit even as he warns against vices that pull us away from God:

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

All too often, we see the “acts of the flesh” on display in contemporary politics. People sow hatred and discord, explode in fits of rage, create dissention and factions, and act out of selfish ambition. It is easy to get caught up in such actions, especially if we think we are doing God’s work and pursuing a moral good. But the ends do not justify the means. When we sow discord and begin to hate our political opponents, we have become trapped in the acts of the flesh.

Instead, God calls us to a higher standard. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and so our actions should bear the fruit of the Spirit. It is possible to care deeply about political issues and advocate passionately for our views while demonstrating love, kindness and gentleness toward those who oppose us. We can be patient even when others are angry; we can control ourselves and our actions. Demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit isn’t easy, especially when others may respond to our virtue with more vice. But with the Spirit’s help, we can model a different form of political engagement. What an amazing opportunity for Christian witness.

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